Katsukawa school

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The Katsukawa school was a school of ukiyo-e art, founded by Miyagawa Shunsui. It specialized in paintings (nikuhitsuga) and prints of kabuki actors (yakusha-e), sumo wrestlers, and beautiful women (bijinga).

Shunsui was the son and student of Miyagawa Chôshun, and he in turn taught Katsukawa Shunshô, who is regarded as one of the leading artists of the school. Shunshô personally focused on headshot actor portraits in his prints, and bijin in his paintings.

Other artists of the school included Shunchô, Shun'ei, Harunobu and Hokusai (as Katsukawa Shunrô).

The Katsukawa school was created as the result of political oppression of the Kanô school of painting by the Tokugawa shogunate around 1750. Many of the students of Chôshun and Shunsui were arrested and banished, and Chôshun died soon afterwards in 1752. Though the shogunate seemed benevolently inclined towards the Miyagawa school, Shunsui changed the name to Katsu-Miyagawa and then simply to Katsukawa.

The school was particularly popular in the last decades of the 18th century, and was renowned for its realistic actor portraits. Unlike those of the Torii school, which were more stylized, Katsukawa portraits sought to express the individual identities and personalities of those depicted. Around 1800, however, the Utagawa school rose to prominence, replacing the Katsukawa in producing the most popular actor portraits. The school thus came to an end around 1840.

Significant artists of the school